When I look at the still young world of UX, I see a mistake being made that I’ve seen before.
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In the early 2000s, agile and Scrum became en vogue. Everyone wanted to do Scrum, because everyone else was doing Scrum, and because agile was the thing to do. This desire gave rise to a new breed of Scrum consultants who fulfilled it by providing a rigid process and helping teams adapt to this process. These consultants took their process and used it on any team, independent of it being the best solution for this team.
With UX on the rise, I see the same pattern. Everyone wants “UX”, which creates a market. This market is filled with consultants that have their standardized UX process, which they sell. Now, here’s problem: neither agile nor UX allow for a rigid process. The agile manifesto has it right:
"Individuals and interactions over processes and tools."
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Just as I didn’t believe Scrum was the answer to everything, I now deeply believe that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to UX. Of course there are patterns: field studies tends to provide useful results; contextual inquiries tend to uncover the frame for the whole experience; wireframes tend to make concrete what was abstract before; prototypes lend themselves to evaluating ideas or approaches. But combining those methods into a standard process with a fixed order is not helpful—it’s harmful. It prevents us from questioning which method is useful right now, from listening to our team and figuring out which next steps work best to move the project along.
Even for client projects that are almost identical, we need to pick different methods from our toolbox and different communication styles to make them successful. So whenever I’m asked for “our UX process”, the honest answer would be “that depends”. Because we take all the experience we have, and use it to adjust ourselves to the situation at hand. We’re designers! It’s our job to step into another person’s shoes and be flexible—or dare I say it: agile.